Mississippi auditor reports ‘serious issues’ with school district’s audit

Published 11:09 am Monday, August 12, 2019

Mississippi Auditor Shad White announced his office uncovered alarming business practices at the Hinds County School District during a routine audit.

Auditors found poor controls over the district credit cards and bank accounts which had not been reconciled in nearly a year.

Additionally, spending records were destroyed before they were reviewed, and the district failed to adhere to some purchasing laws. Most concerning is a finding showing an assistant superintendent is responsible for more than $50,000 in improper expenditures.

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“The auditor’s office just restarted compliance audits of school districts for the first time in a few years, and already we have seen serious issues,” said State Auditor Shad White.

Audit findings include:

The chief financial officer – an assistant superintendent – was not monitored appropriately and is responsible for nearly $50,000 of improper expenditures.

The assistant superintendent initiated a contract to provide a personal “car allowance” in addition to salary without board approval.

This caused a $33,000 loss to the district. Auditors also determined the assistant superintendent used district funds to make personal purchases like a monthly in-air internet subscription, a stay in a luxury hotel suite, and other unapproved charges costing taxpayers nearly $10,000.

Due to poor accounting controls, over $54,000 in adjustments were made during the audit to reconcile the district’s bank statements. Errors made while inputting transactions were originally not discovered in part because bank reconciliations did not occur regularly.

Not all credit card statements were reviewed by the district, and several purchases were made without required written justification. Credit limits on various cards were exceeded, and improper purchases were made.

The district purchased iPads and Apple laptops worth nearly $2 million without a competitive bidding process. Mississippi purchase laws require competitive bids for most large purchases to ensure taxpayers receive the best price for goods and services.

“This uncontrolled and unlawful administrative spending is not acceptable,” said White. “It shortchanges teachers and students. It’s not fair for taxpayers. They all have a right to be angry about this kind of administrative spending. It results in money going outside the classroom and it violates our spending laws. I expect the district to take swift action to make sure this stops.”

Audit findings related to the assistant superintendent have been forwarded to the Auditor’s Investigations Division. The Mississippi Office of the State Auditor does not discuss any pending investigation and will have no further comment on the matter.

Public corruption can be reported to the Office of the State Auditor online any time by clicking the red button at www.osa.ms.gov or via telephone during normal business hours at 1-(800)-321-1275.